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Bishop Demands Affirmation in Same-Sex Marriage OpusJeff Walton October 3, 2012
Bishop Gene Robinson spoke at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters in Washingto, DC on October 1. (Photo credit: Cornell University)
Recently Bishop Gene Robinson attended incognito a worship service at an evangelical mega church in San Diego.
“It was so paranoid,” the Episcopal Church’s first openly partnered homosexual bishop recalled of his experience at Skyline church, which he had been invited to speak at as part of a panel discussion on marriage later that day. “It seemed like the service was all about stoking up their anxiety and their fear.”
Robinson conversed with a family who recognized him; the family expressing belief in the teachings of the church, but also sharing admiration for lesbian neighbors.
“That is the moment we are in,” Robinson summarized. “You’ve got this thing you’ve been told all this time, and then you meet one of more of us and those things don’t seem to be true. The confusion you are feeling is a holy confusion.”
Robinson told of his visit to Skyline Church October 1 at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the homosexual advocacy organization Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Washington is one of eight announced cities Robinson is visiting to promote his new book God Believes in Love: Straight Talk on Gay Marriage. In authoring the book, Robinson imagined a conversation between someone who considered themselves tolerant of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) persons, but not ready “to go to the ballot box for us.”
A Warm Welcome
The outgoing New Hampshire bishop was given a glowing introduction by HRC, with a staffer asserting that Robinson’s example “gave to a mammoth and lumbering institution like the Episcopal Church a new vitality.” Seemingly unaware of the denomination’s steep decline or the 11 percent loss in Robinson’s New Hampshire diocese since his election, the staffer announced that the Episcopal Church “has found a new spring to its step.”
Speaking before a large audience at the organization’s modernist downtown headquarters, Robinson compared LGBT advocacy to abolitionist, suffragette and civil rights movements. The bishop cautioned that it is “easy to live in a bubble and just assume the rest of the country is accepting this [same-sex marriage] the way it is being accepted here [Washington, D.C.] or in New England. It’s just not true.”
Robinson referenced “momentous progress” LGBT activists had made in recent years, “yet we’ve still got kids jumping off of bridges,” referring to suicides by teenagers who are same-sex attracted.
“We’re in this not yet / almost but not yet kind of a place,” Robinson assessed, describing how he was intrigued by those who continue to oppose same-sex marriage – most of whom, he noted, were religious people “still using the scriptures to beat us over the head.”
Referencing his invitation to speak at Skyline Church, Robinson told of a visiting New York pastor who described the legal dispute between his city’s public schools and the over 100 churches who rent their space for Sunday worship. Robinson said the message was “what’s happening in New York is coming to San Diego.”
Explaining how he approaches people who disagree with him on marriage, Robinson asks himself “What are they afraid of?” and then tries to ease their fears.
“This one issue, among many evangelical congregations, has been raised to the point of idolatry,” Robinson charged, expressing frustration that support for traditional marriage has become “a litmus test” of whether one is a believer or not.
Tolerant No More
While Robinson proposed that he was seeking a way “to ratchet down people’s anxiety” so that they were not fearful of same-sex marriage advocates, he also issued new calls.
“I’ve been preaching against tolerance lately,” Robinson revealed. “It’s not enough to have your existence grudgingly approved of.”
The Episcopal Bishop expressed dissatisfaction with churched persons who “think that they have arrived” when they become tolerant of homosexuals, which he argued was not enough.
“It’s just not enough to say it is okay to exist,” Robinson demanded. “There has to be celebration and joy that the other exists.”
Robinson repeated his oft-spoken words that sexuality is almost infinitely diverse, and that the various letter categories are expanding accordingly. “We’ve discovered all of this diversity in the gay community, and we’re supposed to believe there’s not diversity in the straight community? Oh my God!”
Predicting that society is headed to a place “where each one of us has a unique sexuality” Robinson also gave notice that the increasing profile of transgender issue were “going to push buttons that we haven’t even seen yet.”
Dismissing Religious Liberty Concerns
While the Episcopal Church official argued for churches to cease opposing same-sex marriage, he was openly dismissive of religious liberty concerns. The larger issue, Robinson asserted, was the end of patriarchy, and a growing dispute about power, control and gender.
“We’re re-shaping the way the world has been run for a very long time,” the white, male Episcopal bishop trumpeted. Those who argued that same-sex marriage would infringe upon religion were either ignorant of what the law says, or purposefully distorting the truth, Robinson assessed, noting that no clergy person has to provide over any marriage. He did not address the freedom of others to decline the use of their professional services and properties in facilitating a same-sex wedding.
“This so called war on religion is horse-[explitive],” the New Hampshire Bishop charged. “The church is trying to force its faith on the country, and we ought to call it out for what it is.”
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